All square after four games

All square after four games

A pair of third-period goals by Rhett Dekowny on Wednesday night gave the Canmore Eagles a 5-4 victory over the Whitecourt Wolverines and tied their best-of-seven Alberta Junior Hockey League semifinal round series at two wins apiece.

Canmore, the No. 7 seed in these playoffs, came into the contest on the back of a 5-2 loss to Whitecourt, the No. 1 seed, on Tuesday at the Canmore Recreation Centre. It was the first Eagles’ loss on home ice during this postseason after posting victors in each of its five previous home games: against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the play-in series and the Lloydminster Bobcats in the AJHL first-round proper of the playoffs.

Owen Jones had helped stake Canmore to a 3-1 lead in the first period of Wednesday’s clash as the team looked to avoid back-to-back losses on home ice. Jones scored just 46 seconds into the contest when he grabbed a rebound and with a quick move to his left, fired back on goal to beat Whitecourt goaltender Nicholas Avakyan glove side.

Avakyan was making successive starts after sitting out the first two games of the series, but he put his team in a hole before the game even started when he was cited for a warmup violation giving the Eagles a power play they quickly converted.

The first period featured three goals in the opening 2:57. Whitecourt would get back on even terms on a goal by Zephyr LaPlante at 1:45. Then Jones scored his second of the game and fourth of the playoffs at 2:57, collecting a pass out from the left-wing corner and quickly wiring a shot from inside hash marks just under the cross bar on the goaltender’s glove hand side.

There were 11 minor penalties assessed the period, more than the total of any other game in this series with seven going to the Wolverines. With a pair of coincidental penalties among the collection, the Eagles had five power plays, and scored twice. The second power play goal came from Ethan Look at 13:20. His second goal of the playoffs was a long, hard wrister from straight on that got in just under the crossbar over the goaltender’s blocker.

Logan Ziegler assisted on all three Canmore goals.

Whitecourt would clean up its game over the next two periods, not taking another penalty until the end of the game – more on that later. The Wolverines though would make the Eagles pay for taking a pair of minor penalties in the second frame. Power-play goals by Travis Verbeek at 7:46 and Kaiden Wiltsie at 18:56 tied the game at 3-3. That would be the end of the power plays in the game as the Wolverines would finish 2-for-4.

It was then Dekowny’s turn to shine, scoring twice to give Canmore a 5-3 lead. His first goal, and fifth of the playoffs, came just 36 seconds into the period, winning the puck near centre ice, the second-year Eagles broke in two-on-one, chose to shoot and beat Avakyan between the pads. The second goal at 11:22, the Eagles centre arrived late in the slot to collect a pass out from the left-wing corner from Kayden Rawji and skated around Avakyan and slid the puck into the unprotected right side.

Whitecourt, with the goaltender pulled, would get back within one on Verbeek’s second of the game with 14 seconds remaining. On the ensuing face-off, the Eagles retreated with Brody Tallman attempting to pinch the puck along the end boards. The Eagles’ captain was then slammed head first into the boards from behind by Wolverine Spencer Rheaume, who was assessed a major for a check from behind when the ice chips all settled after the ensuing melee.

It was also the end of the night’s action, with Canmore getting back on even terms in this series. The Eagles outshot the Wolverines 36-32, with Matthew Malin continuing in goal for the Eagles.

In Tuesday’s game, the two teams were tied 1-1 after the first period with Verbeek opening the scoring for the Wolverines and Dekowny replying for the Eagles.

Whitecourt took over in the second period, getting goals from Shayne Tibbles and Braden Keeble. Kyle Venneman also had a penalty shot saved by Malin.

In the third period, Colby Browne, on the second penalty shot of this game, extended the Wolverines lead. Stefan Serediak would get one back for the Eagles, but Evan Johnston would renew his team’s three-goal lead inside of the final three minutes.

Shots were 30-30, while on the power play, Whitecourt was 1-for-4 and Canmore was 0-for-3.

Game 5 of the series is in Whitecourt on Friday, April 5, 7 p.m. at JDA Place, with Game 6 in Canmore on Sunday, April 7 beginning at 5 p.m. Tickets are available at If a seventh game is required it will be played in Whitecourt on Tuesday, April 9.

In the other semifinal series, the Calgary Canucks have a 3-1 lead on the Drumheller Dragons. With series switching to Drumheller, the Dragons won 6-3 on Tuesday but lost 4-0 on Wednesday, with Julian Molinaro making 30 saves to record the shutout. That series is on the same schedule, resuming Friday at Calgary’s Max Bell Centre.